Media Day

Ballplayers: paid to hit and pitch, but they talk to the media anyway

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We’re in the middle of the NL player availabilities right now. The AL players will be made available in a few minutes. Somewhere right now there is a press conference about the Home Run Derby about to start. I’m not going to it because no one will be honest and say “Well, I’m just gonna try to hit the ball really far and see what happens.” Who needs it?

These events are really for the folks who live on player quotes. We, obviously, don’t live on player quotes here at HBT. Unless they’re funny or controversial, of course. Then we go to town. But hearing and repeating that it’s an honor to be selected to the All-Star game and that they’re soaking it all in and they’d like to thank the fans who voted for them, well, that doesn’t do a ton for us. And I’ve never been the fan of “ask the ballplayer the off-the-wall question!” school of journalism. Let’s leave that to gimmicky NFL people on the Super Bowl media day. Baseball and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog don’t mix that well.

Still, I went down and talked to some NL players and will talk to some AL players later because, heck, maybe someone would say something funny or controversial. No one did to me (we’ll have to wait for stories from other reporters before we know for sure). I talked to Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman and Andrew McCutchen. I was in a giant scrum around David Wright. I listened in on about a dozen other players being interviewed by other reporters. Among the highlights:

  • Jim Leyland had said earlier that, no surprise, Mariano Rivera will close the game out if necessary for the AL. I asked Kimbrel if Bruce Bochy had given any indication of the closer pecking order for the NL. I told him that he can answer quietly so Jason Grilli, sitting nearby, wouldn’t hear. Kimbrel said that he had no idea as he landed in New York about ten minutes ago and that I was like the fourth person he saw. When asked (by someone else) what his favorite park to pitch in was, he said “the big ones.”
  • Freeman is disappointed by the fact that a day or two after he won the Final Vote thing he got hurt and now isn’t able to play. I almost think winning the vote for him was the most fun part about it, though. He figured he’d get killed by Puig in the voting and thinks his family back in Orange County stuffed the ballot box like crazy. I told him 19 million people voted for him. He laughed and said “well, they helped.”
  • Jason Grilli is honored to be here. He also is unaware of any closer pecking order for the NL. Nor does he know if he’s the pitcher that Bruce Bochy has chosen to hold out of the game in case it goes 16 innings or something. I said that that’d probably be a starter. He said “yeah.”
  • Unsurprisingly, Andrew McCutchen does not think the Pirates are going to collapse this year. I asked him if that question bugs him. He added that it’s way better to be asked about a team collapsing than never having the team be good enough to inspire that question in the first place. He didn’t put it quite like that — he sort of got to that point after many words — but that was the idea. I feel like it was one of those things that, back in the day before tape recorders and media scrums, one single sports writer — a Damon Runyon type — would craft it into a more pointed and witty quote and attribute it to McCutchen all the same.

Sometimes I’m kinda sad we don’t live in those days, actually. I like to think of ballplayers as witty raconteur-types. But they aren’t. They’re ballplayers and they’re paid to crush baseballs, not say witty things to sweaty reporters. And therein lies my basic issue with the game of player quotes.

Report: Blue Jays to acquire Melvin Upton, Jr. from the Padres

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 2:  Melvin Upton Jr. #2 of the San Diego Padres hits a walk-off solo home run during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees at PETCO Park on July 2, 2016 in San Diego, California. The Padres won 2-1. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
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Update (10:12 AM EDT): Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reports the Padres will receive pitcher Hansel Rodriguez from the Blue Jays. Rodriguez is rated as the Jays’ 18th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. The Jays signed Rodriguez out of the Dominican Republic for $330,000 in February 2014. He’s spent the 2016 season with the Bluefield Blue Jays in rookie ball, compiling a 3.06 ERA with a 26/11 K/BB ratio in 32 1/3 innings over six starts.

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The Padres and Blue Jays have agreed on a trade involving outfielder Melvin Upton, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported on Tuesday morning. The Jays will get Upton and the Padres will receive a prospect from Single-A. The financial details are not yet known, but Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune says the Padres are expected to cover a significant portion of his remaining contract. The trade is likely to be finalized on Tuesday.

The two teams opened up a three-game series in Toronto on Monday, so Upton won’t have to go very far to join his new team. The Jays won 4-2 on Monday.

Upton, 31, has had another solid season for the Padres, batting .256/.304/.439 with 16 home runs, 45 RBI, 46 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases in 374 plate appearances. He’s owed the remainder of his $15.45 million salary for the 2016 season and $16.45 million next season, the final year of his five-year contract.

Upton will provide some outfield depth for the Jays, who currently only have Ezequiel Carrera as a full-time back-up outfielder behind Michael Saunders, Kevin Pillar, and Jose Bautista. Bautista was activated from the disabled list on Monday, so Upton could cover right field in the event that Bautista exacerbates his toe injury.

With Upton leaving San Diego, Alex Dickerson is likely to see full-time work in left field in the short term. Prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot could be called up at some point this season as well.

Settling the Scores: Monday’s results

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 25:  Tyler Saladino #18 of the Chicago White Sox celebrates after getting the game-winning hit, a single in the 9th inning, against the Chicago Cubs at U.S. Cellular Field on July 25, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Cubs 5-4.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
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The White Sox got their third consecutive win in walk-off fashion on Monday, downing the Cubs 5-4 in the opening game of a short two-game series at U.S. Cellular Field. On Sunday, the White Sox and Tigers played two, sort of. They finished a suspended game from Saturday, which ended with an Adam Eaton walk-off RBI single in the ninth inning to give the White Sox a 4-3 victory over the Tigers. Later that day, Melky Cabrera walked the Pale Hose off on another RBI single, this time giving his team a 5-4 margin of victory.

In Monday night’s game, the White Sox took a 4-0 lead in the seventh inning with third baseman Todd Frazier providing the bulk of the offense with a three-run home run off of Jake Arrieta in the sixth inning. But starter Miguel Gonzalez tired in the seventh, forking up a two-run home run to Javier Baez. He would exit with two outs in the frame. In the ninth, Matt Albers gave up a double and two singles, leading to one run for the Cubs. Dan Jennings came in and immediately let one of his inherited runners score on an Anthony Rizzo single, tying the game at 4-4.

In the bottom of the ninth, new Cubs acquisition Mike Montgomery took the hill. J.B. Shuck led off with a line drive single to center. He advanced to second base on a Dioner Navarro sacrifice bunt, and promptly scored the winning run on a Tyler Saladino walk-off RBI single.

The White Sox had lost eight of their previous nine games prior to their recent three-game walk-off winning streak. They’re now 49-50, eight games out of first place as they approach the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline.

Box scores.

Cardinals, Mets [Postponed]
Tigers 4, Red Sox 2
Rangers 7, Athletics 6
Phillies 4, Marlins 0
Yankees 2, Astros 1
Brewers 7, Diamondbacks 2
Angles 6, Royals 2
Reds 7, Giants 5
Orioles 3, Rockies 2 (10 innings)
Blue Jays 4, Padres 2
White Sox 5, Cubs 4